Small Wonders

on October 04, 1996 by Lea Russo
   The greatest teachers in the world are the ones who give their students not just the knowledge to survive but the wisdom to prevail. Nominated for an Academy Award for best documentary feature (then titled "Fiddlefest"), Allan Miller's film "Small Wonders" follows just such a person. A whirlwind of energy and strength, Roberta Guaspari-Tzavaras doesn't listen to excuses, perhaps because she doesn't make any for herself. When the East Harlem school system cut her violin class, she started a nonprofit organization in order to give children the beauty of music and the determination to play it well. Every year, she teaches the violin to 150 kids at three schools and puts on several concerts, including a Carnegie Hall benefit. "Small Wonders" catches Guaspari-Tzavaras in action, demanding the full attention and best efforts of her pupils--even from the five-year-olds. Whether they are playing "Twinkles" for their parents or the National Anthem at a Knicks game, these children are learning discipline, perseverance and the joy of earned success. They're also accomplished violinists: At the Carnegie concert, kids under age 15 are playing Bach with such famous violinists as Isaac Stern and Itzhak Perlman.
   The film may seem biased toward its subjects, but it's hard not to fall in love with these children and their mentor. Whatever flaws they may have could never detract from their commitment, hard work and inspirational playing. The feel-good movie of the year, "Small Wonders" is music for the heart. Directed by Allan Miller. Produced by Susan Kaplan and Walter Scheuer. A Miramax release. Documentary. Rated G. Running time: 80 min. Won the UNESCO Prize at the Venice fest. Opens 10/4 NY, 10/11 LA
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